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Kindergarten students visit ‘Little Toot’

April 24, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A unique partnership gave kindergarten students at Lehigh Elementary School an opportunity to visit with Captain Christopher Robin and Little Toot, a little tugboat, last week.

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools Director of Programs Beverly Burke said Captain Christopher Robin came to the foundation and told them about Little Toot and how he shares educational inspiration to students.

The inspiration is based on the 1939 Hardie Gramatky "Little Toot" children's book. Captain Christopher restored the tugboat Little Toot, the "giving tug" and now shares literature about giving all through stories of Little Toots adventures.

Article Photos

Little Toot, tooting at six knots for Lehigh Elementary School students in Downtown Fort Myers.


She said they started thinking of different ways to work together, which pointed them to their Classroom & School Grants.

"Classroom & School Grants is an opportunity for educators to purchase the tools necessary to create unique learning experiences. Each project awarded must enhance student learning," she said.

The grant for teachers is $500, or $1,000 for a group of teachers.

"Our grant's program relies on private donations that we get matched by state funds through the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation," Burke said. "The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools has been awarding mini-grants to educators since 1988. This school year we awarded over $62,000 in grants to teachers and schools in Lee County."

The grant funded projects offers students hands-on activities and a unique perspective on traditional subject areas, Burke said. The categories for the grant include art, health, fitness and nutrition, literacy, social studies and STEM. The school grants also focuses on literacy, STEM education, and/or academic achievement of low performing students.

"He was saying that he can base his storytelling and inspiration around any of those items," Burke said.

Monday, April 15, through Wednesday, April 17, kindergarten students from Lehigh Elementary School benefited from the relationship formed between the foundation and Captain Christopher.

The students took a field trip to visit Captain Christopher and Little Toot at the dockside on the Downtown Riverfront Dock in Downtown Fort Myers.

"This is our pilot program," Burke said. "They had fun. They got to see a tugboat, police boat and the water. They saw the tugboat and got to see Captain Christopher talk about hope and the chair he rescued. They learned about helping other people. They learned about direction. We are trying to give them an experience. It's all about an experience that they would never have. A lot of these kids have never been on the bus and never saw a boat."

Brian Boddie helped make the field trip possible with a donation to pay for the buses that took the students from Lehigh to Downtown Fort Myers. His late wife, Laura Boddie, was a paraprofessional at Lehigh Elementary School. She worked for the Lee County School District for more than 20 years. The donation was made in his wife's memory and love of the students at Lehigh Elementary School.

Robin said he started The Going Six Knots Foundation after he found the historic tugboat, Little Toot, in a barn, which took him back to his childhood of reading "Little Toot."

"I am very passionate about history. When I opened the barn door I stared at Little Toot. At that time in my life I was changing. I left New York City. I was resetting my own compass," the captain said. "I looked at Little Toot. Here is a tugboat that helped other boats and now we can help other people together."

Since finding him in the barn, he has been restoring Little Toot while getting to know him, all while furthering the concept of art and giving.

"I found a greater purpose after leaving New York," he said.

Last year Robin started his own series of books, all new adventures of Christopher Robin and Little Toot. Last summer, Little Toot went home to Labelle, so Robin could retrace his roots for his first book.

"My Little Toot and Captain Christopher Robin is real. We tell real stories, hope, possibility, inspiration and believing," Robin said. "You can be a tugboat in a barn and lost your captain. If you believe you can get back on the water."

Last week, the students heard new literature while learning the story of Little Toot and his adventures during their field trip. The students received their own lanyard whistle, compass and light.

"Little Toot talks through a whistle and tooting," Robin said, which is why the students needed their own.

Everything on board Little Toot, props, are part of his life and adventure, therefore telling a story.

"The biggest part of my storytelling involves chairs. Little Toot's best friend is a CHAIR. That CHAIR came from Cuba," Robin said of while he was on an art mission in Cuba. "The Cuban CHAIR is special because it represents being on the streets lost and forgotten and then it found me. He parallels with Little Toot. They both have new lives and new purposes."

The students also learned about a compass during the field trip and how to find the direction north. An appearance by the water police was also made during to talk about water safety, helping animals and rescuing others.

"Little Toot was famous for his figure eights. He would go in the water and do figure eights in the harbor and he did that when he was happy," he said. "I have adopted that. I leave the dock and I go out and find a signature eight in the water for the kids to see. Then I turn around, they toot at me and I took back at them."

The bottom line, Robin wants everyone to learn about giving.

"It's about slowing down and having hope and faith," he said. "I really want to bring great, fresh, original content to the schools in a way that is locally based and very inspired."

Burke said next year they hope to offer teachers the opportunity to apply for a grant to take a field trip to see Little Toot and have a fun, educational learning experience.



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